Recently, for the first time in forever, I watched an episode of Leave It To Beaver.
As I watched, I saw unfold before me exactly how most of the behavioral problems Ted had at school should have been handled. Sadly, Teddy was singled-out and punished for his behavior without the time taken to discover what prompted the behavior. Over and over I would say to the school, “What was the ANTECEDENT? What was the WHY of his behavior?” But they didn’t take the time to find out and in not doing so they missed out on understanding the reason for the behavior, and consequently, they missed the opportunity to teach him appropriate behavior. Moreover, and just as importantly, they broke Teddy’s trust in them.
I believe watching a condensed, 10 minute version of this episode, Her Idol, should be required curriculum in all education schools.
Beaver and his classmate, Linda were seen sitting together in a tree. (This is a big deal in 3rd grade.)
The next day at school, Beaver was teased by his classmates for being “sweet on Linda.” As they taunted him, they said the only way he could prove she wasn’t “his girl” was to call her a funny name in front of everyone.
So, the following day, an obviously conflicted Beaver called Linda a “smelly old ape” and she ran away crying.
The kids lauded Beaver, but he felt terrible and hit the boy standing next to him. A fight broke out and was soon broken up by the janitor and teacher, Miss Landers. When she asked what happened, the kids eagerly told her Beaver called Linda a mean name.
Miss Landers then took Beaver to the principal, Mrs. Rayburn.
The next scene is at home and Beaver’s dad is reading a typed note from the principal reporting the incident and asking the Cleavers to find out what prompted Beaver’s behavior.
Mr. Cleaver: Why would you do a thing like this?
Beaver: I don’t know.
Mr. Cleaver: That isn’t good enough.
Beaver then told him all that happened.
Beaver: After I called Linda a name I felt so mad I wanted to hit somebody.”
Mr. Cleaver: So you hit Larry?
Beaver: He was the closest.
Mr. Cleaver: Beaver, did you tell Mrs. Rayburn about the kids teasing you?
Beaver: Gee, no dad. I didn’t want to be a squealer.
Mr. Cleaver then sent Beaver up to his room as he and Mrs. Cleaver called the school.
The next scene is in Beaver’s classroom and Miss Landers is addressing ALL the students, equally.
Miss Landers: Now, before we begin today’s lesson I think there is one thing we should straighten out in regards to our relations with each other. Now I talked with Mrs. Rayburn and all the commotion yesterday was caused by a mistaken idea. Some of you seem to think there is something shameful about a little boy and a little girl liking one another. Now let’s talk about it for a minute. Is it really so shameful? All of us, here in this room are rather like one big family and I think our family could be a lot happier if we were kind and considerate and friendly towards one another. And, well, as far as little boys and girls liking one another, well, you don’t have to be silly about it, but, I do think you should have mutual respect and learn to get along together. You know, if you do that, you will be taking a big step towards becoming the kind of men and women we want you to be.
School and home worked together to take the time to find out the whole story.
No knee-jerk punishment was administered prior to full-discovery of the facts or to the one that was bullied.
Rather, because the situation was fully understood, the ENTIRE class, whose collective effort created the conflict, were all spoken to and held equally responsible. The teacher explained the desired behavior and its rationale and a learning opportunity was created. No punishment was even necessary.
Beth Fouse, in her book Creating a Win-Win IEP for Students with Autism, states when conducting a behavioral analysis, 10 questions should be asked.
- When does the behavior occur?
- What happened before the behavior occurred?
- How often does the behavior last?
- What happened after the behavior occurred?
- Is the behavior serving a purpose?
- If so, what is the purpose?
- Can this behavior be addressed by teaching a more appropriate response?
- What social skills does this student need to learn?
- How and when does this student interact with other students?
- What social interaction skills does this student need to learn?
The script writers in this Leave It To Beaver episode answered almost all of these questions by instinctively pursuing a patient, empathetic and respectful inquiry. And yes, I know I’m using a TV show for an example, but still, it’s my belief, my hope, that this successful course of action does not just have to be Hollywood fiction, but that it could be incorporated into real life classroom situations.
I don’t ever want to think that treating others with patience, empathy and respect is fiction.